Called by history
September 2001. Dhaka, Bangladesh.
There I was sitting in front of our black Sony television, watching the news on CNN as darkness fell outside. While I was getting ready to retire for the night, on the other side of the world, on that Tuesday morning the world was turning upside down. On the screen of the television I watched pictures of toy-like airplanes flying into some tall buildings. Within seconds those buildings were engulfed with flames, black smoke going up like erupting volcanoes. I watched, feeling a bit lost. Did I miss a part of the news that had led to that part, what was happening? It was like some James Bond movies, but I was sure that I was not on any movie channel!
I sat up, put down the teacup that I had been holding in my hand on the table in front of me, straining my senses.
What was the lady in the news saying, planes hit the Twin Towers in New York? Then came more news, Pentagon under attack! Oh God, was there the third world war on?
Those were only fragments of thoughts that raced on my mind as details of the 9/11 attack by Islamic terrorists on US soil came in. I wasn’t in my senses as I started shouting, calling out to my family members and shaking with disbelief. How could it be, how, how?
September 2017: New York City, USA.
For the past few days, New York has been calling on my being, sending messages to the invisible threads that get the body into motion. So there I was, suddenly boarded on a Peter Pan bus and heading to New York City in the early hours of the day from Amherst, Massachusetts. By late afternoon, I was on the grounds of the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum. It was 2017 and yet my mind was rewinding to a day in 2001, of being dumbfounded as I watched international and local news on TV channels covering the attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of the fourth plane in Pennsylvania. The terrorist attacks took lives of thousands of innocent people, including firefighters. The memories re-winded repeatedly as I set my foot on the memorial site. Wings of history touch people in unimaginable ways and it called me to Ground Zero on that September day of 2017, for reasons of its own.
After staring for long at the tall bluish structure on the memorial ground, I walked to one of the two fountains. I stood, quietly reading the names of the victims of 9/11 attacks, all written along the edges of the two fountains. The approaching sunset cast a brilliant golden hue all around as if bathing the whole place with angels’ lights. The water inside the square framed walls cascaded downward, the sound of the running fountain resembled voices of people wailing. And the water going downward seemed like endless tears. Visitors were taking turns to stand by the fountains, some quiet and others holding each other and tearful. Perhaps they have lost some loved ones on that fateful 9/11 day of 2001?
I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Few drops of water spraying out of the fountain fell on my face, or was it a drizzle from the cloudy sky? And then I saw her name on the beside another lost soul’s and I heard a distinctly feminine voice, “There you are, Tulip you have come! I have been hoping to see you since you now live in the USA, you never missed visiting me remember?”
What could have brought me to the exact spot where that name was inscribed? I stared at the words, “ Nazneen Khan” and then my vision was led to the middle of the fountain. There, the owner of the voice stood, like an angel rising out of the sea. Immense relief was written over her beautiful face. A man, another angel like figure stood beside her, smiling at me. Both, the man and the woman looked so peaceful, so content.
What was going on? I believed in spirits of the departed coming back to Earth, and that day was not the first time that I was aware of them around me.
From my place by the wall of the fountain, I stared. My knuckles white from the tight hold on the concrete beside me. Oh yes, I was sure the figures were the spirits of my cousin Nazneen and her husband.Both of them were working inside the first tower the plane had hit on the fateful day of the 9/11 attacks. They were not lucky to see the daylight again.
‘May your souls rest in peace, dear cousin.’ I whispered. As if the spirits had come just to hear those words, as soon as I uttered my prayers, the apparitions vanished.
It was two days after the 9/11 attack in 2001, we got the news of Nazneen and her husband being among the thousands of lives lost that day. I had not been able to come and pay my respect to them or the other victims of the unimaginable tragedy then. Finally, 2017 held a reunion of spirits on the place where my cousin had breathed her last. Love has strange ways and Nazneen’s spirit had called me to witness the site where so many innocent people lost their lives with her. I sighed and let my tears fall into the fountain to mingle with those of other crying souls.
Note: This flash fiction is based a true story. The name has been changed for reasons of sentiments.
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA.